Interview with Lightning Box
Lightning Box is not your average RNG game studio. Founded in 2004 by mathematicians with each having over twenty years of experience in designing math models, such as for some of Aristocrat and IGT's biggest hit titles. Lightning Box's partners include the likes of giants SG Gaming and Microgaming, as well as Quickfire and High 5 Games. Some of their highlights include Silver Lions, Chilli Gold 2x, Lost Temple, and Super Happy Fortune Cat!
Please introduce yourself and what Lightning Box is, and what it does.
Hi, I'm Michael Maokhamphiou and I'm the Operations Manager at Lightning Box. As my job title implies, my role is primarily running the operations of the business and ensuring we deliver high-quality content to our customers.
Lightning Box is a leading multi-channel supplier of video slots to the casino gaming industry. We are based in Sydney, Australia. We provide high-quality gaming content to land-based, online, and social casinos around the world.
Lightning Box was founded in 2004 by former Aristocrat and IGT game designers Peter Causley and David Little. We distribute our games via SG Digital, Microgaming, Incredible Technologies, and High 5 Casino to name a few. Over the years, we have produced a number of commercially successful games, such as Silver Lion, Lightning Horseman, Chicken Fox, Stellar Jackpots-Serengeti Lions, Stellar Jackpots-Chilli Gold x2, Dolphin Gold, Silver Lioness 4x, Astro Cat, and Lightning-Leopard.
The main differences between our most and least popular real-money slot games lie within the game design element and the engaging/stickiness factor.
Which markets are you servicing? And which targets have been the most challenging to establish yourself into?
We service our games in many regulated markets around the world. In Europe, our content is available in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and Portugal to name a few. In North America, our games can be played in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Canadian provinces like BCLC (British Columbia Lottery Corporation), ALC (Atlantic Lottery Corporation), and LQ (Loto Quebec).
Every market has its challenges as regulatory changes and updates happen quite often. As of late, the German market has been quite a challenge with new taxation rules coming into place which in turn requires content providers to supply slots with a lower RTP variant. Prior to that, Germany already had tight restrictions with their iGaming requirements.
Lightning Box prides itself in being founded by mathematicians, what do you think this brings to the games and overall company strategy?
Our experience and emphasis on game design have helped us develop and deliver entertaining games to players. Mathematics and Game Design go hand in hand and have proven to be our bread and butter for creating successful titles.
As we are primarily a game design studio, we look at creating games from the perspective of a player and what would engage us in continued gameplay. Our strategy has always been to focus on the mechanics as it is the backbone to our success.
Why haven't you, as of yet, expanded into other types of RNG game categories such as virtual sports, card games, or even dice games?
Other RNG games are not our forte and we rather play to our strength and experience which is game design and mathematics for online slots. As popular as virtual sports, card games, and dice games are in the online space, there are already leading companies already in those divisions who have established a player base and have proven success. So for us to try and take a slice of the pie from those companies, will be a tough and challenging task.
Which real money slot games have been the biggest hits for Lightning Box, and why do you think such levels of success were reached for these titles?
Chicken Fox has been one of our biggest hits and mainstay in the iGaming RMG (real-money gaming) space. The mechanics play a big part but also the characters in the game. The theme revolves around fun quirky Barnyard animals chasing one another round (namely Fox chasing Chicken hence the game name "Chicken Fox". The game appeals to all demographics and is also highly volatile where players can obtain enormous wins.
Other hit titles, in no particular order, were Stellar Jackpots-Chilli Gold 2x, Silver Lion, Lightning Horseman, and Dolphin Gold. All were good solid performers and had gathered their own following. We feel like it's the gameplay stickiness factor that has allowed these games to sustain long-term success.
If you take your most popular and your least popular titles, what do you think are the main differences explaining the gap?
The main differences between our most and least popular real-money slot games lie within the game design element and the engaging/stickiness factor it may have lacked in overall game play entertainment.
As most slot suppliers would understand, you experiment and there will be games that won't have the same success as others. You learn from this and improve the gameplay in future titles. Artwork and theme can also play a part in the lack of success of a game especially if the quality of the audio and video art is not up to par.
As you build cross-platform RNG games, which ones are the easiest and most challenging to build on?
The easiest to build on would be social games as there are no regulations involved and you can test drive your products before consideration of release to the RMG division. They also tend to take a shorter time frame to build as you don't need to consider requirements for the various jurisdictions.
On the other hand, online real-money slot games would be the most challenging as you would want to cater your slot content for a majority of markets with acceptance of their regulations. With this, you need to consider all design aspects like RTP, max win probabilities, player protection, win caps, etc.
What goes into a game in terms of engineering and what exactly gets involved during the slot game creation process (audio engineering, maths, QA, visuals, UX, etc)?
There are many components that go into the development of a slot game.
First up is the math model which is designed alongside the game theme and idea. The math contains the logic and becomes the backend of a slot game.
Concept Art starts not long after mathematics and evolves as maths progress. Animation is worked on after the completion of all static art. Once we complete the Art and Animation, we work with a sound engineer to produce the necessary audio to accompany the game.
Next will be the development stage where we assemble all elements and tidy them up. This is inclusive of playing animations and displays at the right time, playing the audio and sound effects, successfully developing features, gameplay, and optimization. We go through multiple iterations of development to fine-tune the choreography and to meet our original design spec.
Once a game is accepted and approved, it goes to QA and then compliance. Once it receives the appropriate certifications, the game is then scheduled to go live in the targeted markets through the selected platform provider.
What is your tech stack on the backend and frontend at Lightning Box?
We use Java mainly for our backend but also use .NET depending on the distribution platform partner we use.
All our client frontend are built in HTML5 and support both desktop and mobile. Our games are omnichannel and cross-platform meaning there is a single build version that supports desktop, mobile and tablets.
With your focus on maths, algorithmics, and engineering, what do you seek in a talented software engineer beyond raw coding skills?
How would you recommend a new programmer to proceed if they want to end up working in the iGaming industry?
They need to be passionate about slot games and have a desire to play and learn about the evolving mechanics in the marketplace. They should learn to understand how slot mathematics work and how you build the logic (backend) based on the math. Once they have a solid understanding and can build the backend and frontend (visually what is seen when playing a slot), they can then be considered a full-fledged iGaming software developer.
New technologies may become mainstream soon, where do you see slot games evolving over the next decade?
With the expansion of 5G, the mobile usage of playing slot content will just go up. As of current, the mobile market is already dominating desktop by a significant margin and players prefer the ease of accessing slots via their handheld devices.
We may see slot games in VR environments in the future but whether this will prove successful and popular, only time will tell. Due to the global pandemic and current restrictions in some territories, it may be the best alternative to mimic entering a real casino and placing bets on a slot game.
Let us know what you have in the pipeline so Lightning Box fans can look forward to playing them!
We'll continue to produce high-quality slots to be enjoyed by players. In the future, fans can expect continuation from hit franchises like the Lightning series, Stellar Jackpot series, and Skillstar series.
Also stay tuned but we may have a prequel planned for one of our most successful titles. 🤫